Cordova Volunteer Fire Department offers free naloxone distribution, training

The Cordova Volunteer Fire Department (CVFD) offered a free training for interested citizens and businesses on how to use naloxone opioid overdose rescue kits over the weekend, with a goal of reducing opioid overdose deaths through public education. CVFD is partnering with Illanka Community Health to distribute free kits through the statewide Project HOPE, an initiative under the Alaska Department of Public Health. 

“The tragedy of opioid-related deaths and arrests has left in its wake fear and misinformation,” said Tamar Smith, a volunteer member of CVFD’s medical team and certified EMT. “Nationally, more people died of opioid overdoses last year than in any year previous. Naloxone saves lives.”

CVDF held their first training open to the public this past Sunday at the fire hall. The dozen people who attended learned about the signs of overdose, how to respond with naloxone, and the legal protections offered by the state for emergency response to these situations.

Naloxone is a nasal spray that helps prevent death by opioid overdose by helping oxygen enter the body. Emergency response kits available to the public contain two doses of the life- saving drug, instructions, and various protective gear such as gloves and a face mask for resuscitation. The kits are commonly referred to as “Narcan kits,” though only some of the kits contain the Narcan brand name naloxone.

During the hour and a half training session on Sunday, participants overviewed information related to opioid overdose and were able to practice hands-on scenarios. The training also provided information about Alaska’s Good Samaritan Law, as a result of House bill 395 — a law that protects anyone from civil liability after administering emergency aid. Naloxone does not have negative side effects that would worsen a medical scenario, even if the situation is misidentified as an overdose.

According to the state health department, between 2020 and 2021 the overall drug overdose death rate in Alaska increased by 74%. Further, the Office of Substance Misuse Addiction and Prevention (OSMAP) program’s most recent report to the Legislature cites the primary driver of the opioid epidemic as illicit fentanyl, the effects of which can be treated with naloxone nasal spray. Project HOPE partners with Alaskan Native and community health centers to provide life-saving interventions and training on how to use them. Ilanka Community Health has made the kits available for the past two years with a “no questions asked” policy.

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In addition to community education, the free training is also intended to be a safe space to ask questions and de-stigmatize addiction.

“Treating addicts badly does not help them recover, and people who cannot talk about their addiction cannot get help,” said Smith.

Some participants present at Sunday’s training had previous CPR or First Aid experience, while others were new to emergency care.

Lucas Moore was one of the participants in the recent training. Moore works seasonally on a fishing vessel and said his past experiences have made him aware of the importance of emergency response knowledge.

“I hope not to use it, but you just never know. You could save someone’s life,” he said.

CVFD hopes to offer more trainings in the future.

“We would like to see naloxone available, and people trained to administer it in businesses, public spaces, and private homes around town,” said Smith.

Businesses or individuals interested in learning how to respond to an overdose can contact Smith at [email protected].

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